PG's annual Feast of Lanterns
Pacific Grove's annual Feast of Lanterns began in 1905, during the time of the tenuous relationship between the Chinese immigrants and the local European population. Today the festival attempts to honor the very same Chinese who were forced out of the area after their community on Cannery Row was destroyed by a suspicious fire.
The Feast of Lanterns has numerous events similar to historic Asian activities such as fireworks, Chinese lanterns on many houses, and a boat parade. It has even more non-Asian events intended to generate fun and community involvement such as the just-for-fun track meet, art competition, ice cream social, pet parade, street dance.
The heart of of the festival is at Lovers Point Park, where they set up a stage on the small concrete pier. Most spectators sit on the well-protected beach or along the recreation trail where they have nice views of the stage over the calm waters of the cove. In Lovers Point Park, they have some kids games and numerous food booths run by Pacific Grove restaurants like Thaiwaiian (great Spam musubi!) and Dos Amigos.
Criticism of the Feast of Lanterns event usually focuses on the cartoonish stereotypes used to represent Chinese customs. Some of the supposedly Chinese events such as the "Legend of the Blue Willow" reenactment are said to be western inventions with no basis in Asian culture. Others point to the fact that this celebration of Asian culture started at the same time as the height of the violence and problems between the communities and has never addressed these issues in a historical manner.
You might prefer the more authentic Asian cultural experiences in the area, such as the Japanese Obon Festival put on by the Monterey Buddhist Temple in Seaside, a visit to Japan town in San Jose or San Francisco, and San Francisco or Oakland's Chinatown.
PG's "Good Old Days" Festival
We attended the Pacific Grove Good Old Days festival on 21 April 2007. Though the city tries to downplay the event as a small, local festival, it is rather large with 260 vendors, four or five stages with live music most of the weekend, and some 50,000 visitors. The showcases of the festival are the parade and the police motorcycle demonstration and competitions. They also claim this is Monterey County's largest art and craft show. We spent a few hours walking along Lighthouse Avenue's vendors and live stages, chatting with a few local artists and authors. We also sampled a few foods such as tri-tips from a barbecue restaurant in Barstow, California. The festival shuts down rather early, so we had a great dinner in PG at Fandango's restaurant in town. Not the greatest event of this type I have attended, but it's something to do if you're in the area.
The Good Old Days festival in 2007 was the 50th annual event.
Golf at Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links
Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links is one of America's top public courses. It is comprised of the first nine holes in the town of Pacific Grove and nine holes along the water surrounding picturesque Point Pinos Lighthouse. The course was established in 1932.
The course is also a good deal at $40 on Weekdays and $45 on weekends for non-residents. The course is open every day of the year.
The Point Pinos Grill is located at the course and is open to the public. All meals are $10 or less, and they consist of breakfasts, sandwiches, and a few light entrees such as fish and chips.
Local PG Architecture
Pacific Grove has a wide variety of unique architecture. Some of the oldest houses are the small cottages and cabins, many of which date from the town's original days when tiny lots were created for tents, which were later replaced with these buildings. Several of the cottages were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s.
About the same time the cabins were being built, Victorian mansions began to spring up. Good examples are the W.H. Stephens House (1892), Seven Gables (1886), and the Grand View Inn (1910).
Other modern buildings often have funky colors and retro designs making them almost as interesting as the historic structures.
One side note...when new houses are built or older houses expanded, city code requires a review period so neighbors can comment on the design and size. To mark the dimensions of the new structure, strips of orange construction fence are hung from poles so everyone knows how big the new house will be.
PG's new farmers market
In summer 2008, after must discussion, planning, and hand-wringing over the potential negatives, Pacific Grove finally approved their Farmer's Market. This is a nice little farmers market that has about 10 veggie booths offering all types of vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and flowers. They also have about 6 or 8 food booths, mostly from the smaller Pacific Grove restaurants like Petra, International Cuisine, Thaiwaiian, Little Chicken House, and Dos Amigos. Finally, they have a few booths selling trinkets like jewelery and toys. The night I visited they also had at least three little bands playing music on the sidewalks around the market.
This market is not as big as Monterey's Tuesday downtown farmers market or Monterey's Thursday market at Monterey Peninsula College. At the same time, this PG market has a friendlier, more intimate feel. PG also has another advantage over the MPC market... easy access to local stores and restaurants.
Pacific Grove Farmers Market every Monday on Lighthouse Avenue between Forest Avenue and 18th Street, 4 to 8 PM. The market is operated by Everyone's Harvest, the same organization that holds Marina's Sunday farmers market.
Pacific Grove Triathlon
To me, Pacific Grove is a surprising place for a big event like a triathlon, but this quiet little town has been if full support of this significant event since 1995. Each year about 2000 competitors converge on this little town for the three-day event that is centered around Lovers Point.
On Friday you will find an expo set up in the parking lot at Lover's Point. Saturday you will find the elite triathlons and Sunday are the sprint triathlons. The long course includes a 1.5 km swim in the kelp at Lovers Point, a 40 km bike race along the coast, and a 10 km run. The sprint course competitors have to swim only 1/4 mile, bike 12.4 miles, and run 2 miles.
The elite race has a total purse of $20,000 for males and another $20,000 for females with $2,500 going to the winners.
For spectators, the race is free and fun.